Washington / AFP
Iraqi security forces will be ready by next month for an assault on the IS stronghold of Mosul, the top general in the US military said on Wednesday.
“We assess today that the Iraqis will have in early October all the forces marshaled, trained, fielded, equipped that are necessary for operations in Mosul,” General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a military event in Washington.
“Timing of that operation now is really just a function of a political decision by Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi.”
Iraqi forces have been moving northwards from Baghdad for almost two years, gradually retaking areas over which IS declared its “caliphate” in June 2014.
Kurdish peshmerga forces to the north of Mosul will also join the assault.
The United States is leading an international air campaign that has been pounding IS targets across Iraq and Syria.
Though the Pentagon does not plan on directly sending American troops into combat, it has thousands of soldiers in Iraq who are training and arming Iraqi partners.
“We will be in a position to provide whatever support, whatever reinforcement, those forces need in order to be successful,” Dunford said.
IS seized Mosul, Iraq’s cosmopolitan and religiously mixed second city, in a lightning offensive through the north and west of the country.
Mosul had an estimated population of around two million before IS took it over.
Accurate numbers for the population remaining in the city are hard to come by but the United Nations and other officials have said up to one million civilians may still be living under IS rule in the Mosul area.
The Pentagon estimates 3,000 to 4,500 IS fighters are in Mosul.